Comparing State and District Test Results to National Norms: The Validity of Claims That “Everyone Is Above Average”


  • Robert L. Linn,

    1. Professor at the Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing, at the School of Education, University of Colorado, Campus Box 249, Boulder, CO 80309. He specializes in educational measurements.
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  • M. Elizabeth Graue,

    1. Professor at the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 225 North Mills Street, Madison, WI 53706-1795. She specializes in research methodology and early childhood policy.
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  • Nancy M. Sanders

    1. Assistant Professor at the Office of Administration, Supervision, and Curriculum Development, School of Education, University of Colorado at Denver, Campus Box 106, P.O. Box 173364, Denver, CO 80217. She specializes in curriculum policy and organizational issues in education.
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  • The project presented, or reported herein, was performed persuant to a grant from the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, Department of Education (OERI/ED). However, the opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the OERIiED and no official endorsement by the OERI/ED should be inferred.


Are all states and nearly all districts claiming that their students are above the national average? If so, are the test results “inflated and misleading?” What are the factors that contribute to the abundance of “above average” scores?